Saturday, 11 April 2009

Extract from Chapter 2

We spend the morning driving the girls around a few sights then, after catching some lunch and an hour of surf, we leave Shelly and Hui-ying to their own devices while we set out to sea in an awesome boat. At the wheel, Josh is in his element skimming over the chop, occasionally whooping when we take flight. Despite the high spirits, he's an experienced pilot, therefore unlikely to wreck the boat, which is a good twenty-two foot (an important additional insurance).
I'm in the passenger seat keeping track of where we are and where we want to be. It's all a bit vague, so I eventually decide that this spot will do. At my signal, Josh throttles right back until we're just drifting.
"Don't switch off or stall," I tell him.
"We don't want any problems restarting."
That raises his hackles. "Why?"
His patience is wearing thin at not knowing the detailed plan but he can sweat a bit longer.
"You'll see in a minute."
The reason Josh doesn't know the plan is because, until yesterday, neither did I, not for sure. I decided on one of the slightly riskier options after becoming more acquainted with Trimbole. Every once in a while, we pull off an outrageous kill, designed to engage the imaginations of potential clients and enemies. Trimbole more-or-less volunteered for the starring role in such a drama.
Opening my rucksack, I pull out a plastic-wrapped joint of meat and a flask of liquid.
"Stone, dude," says Josh, a note of extreme caution in his voice. "That's a leg of pork."
He isn't stupid - he's already guessed. "Not shark? Don't tell me it's shark."
"You heard of chumming?"
"Sure, attracting fish by baiting the water. That's what the pork's for? Attracting fucking shark?" Josh doesn't seem keen on the idea.
"No, the pork's a reward." I shake the flask so that the liquid splashes noisily inside. "This is the chum."
"What is it?"
"A secret. A very old Aboriginal bloke told me about it years ago, but made me swear I'd never tell a 'white fella'." Josh's expression is a picture. "Somehow, he knew I wasn't one even before I said so. Apparently, this guaranteed way of calling big shark is known to very few now, and it's only safe for those who obey the sacred signs and hunt in the right seasons."
"Is it the right season?" 'Agitated' about sums up Josh's current state. "It better be the right fucking season."
"No idea, but we're not hunting shark, so we won't be offending any of the Ancestors."
Time to get serious.
"Okay, Josh, from the moment I open this flask, we need to be ready to retreat, so listen up. I'll tie a float to the pork, splash the chum on it, and throw the lot in the sea. Then we move, quickly - but not too quickly, we don't want to end up swimming. Stop just within the limits of the binoculars. I need to see if it gets taken, but not be close enough to figure on the menu."
"Good idea - especially the bit about the menu," Josh confirms, scanning the waves.
I carry through the plan, being careful not to spill the chum on myself or the boat. Once prepared, the tackle all goes overboard. Josh steers us around and we're off, slicing through the waves, my eyes glued to the float all the way to a safe ... safer distance. There, the engine idling, we both watch for a while, then decide to take it in turns. It might be a long time, or not at all.
After about six minutes, Josh gasps, "Fuck, it moved!"
I grab my binoculars, just in time to see the float vanish without trace. Some disturbance of the water follows, but nothing too alarming.
"Wonder if it's one or a few," I comment, keeping the amazement out of my voice. "The scent has a limited range - less than that of blood. We were more likely to attract nothing than to end up with a dozen of them."
"That's reassuring," says Josh, dryly, the binoculars still stuck to his face. Then, "Jeez!"
I take a look, and understand what he means. The float's returned to the surface and a dark grey fin's cutting through the water beside it. That's not a small shark ... uh, uh. That's more than adequate for the job.
"Let's go," I say.
"Back to the hotel."
Josh's concern for my sanity apparently outweighs that for the shark - his full attention is fixed on me. "We've risked our asses to lure a giant killer fish into the middle of nowhere, and now we're just going home?"
"It'll still be here tomorrow. They can't resist that scent, so it'll hang around for days hoping for more."
A light goes on in Joshua's face. "Tomorrow we lure it closer to Trimbole's cove."
"That's the idea - a bit at a time because of the limited range."
The light goes out again. He scowls. "Shark might eat pork, but they're not so keen on people, not after a nibble or two. We don't have enough fat to be worth the effort."
"If Trimbole's swimming in a slick of that chum, the shark won't be worried about how much blubber he has. Besides, a couple of bites should be sufficient if that mother's as big as it looks."
"There's a lot of 'ifs' and 'buts', Stone. It's not guaranteed to work."
"True, but if it does, think of the splash." I emphasise the pun with a wink. "And if it doesn't, we just kill him some other way."